Monday, December 31, 2007

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

While I love brioche, I wanted to try a new bread for breakfast.

I decided on Raisin Swirl Bread from Baking From my Home to Yours because our next-door neighbor gave us a huge bag of raisins from a grower in Napa. They are the best raisins i've ever tasted and nearly three times the size of typical grocery store raisins.

I'm not sure I added enough flour; working with the dough was very difficult. Still, it felt right when I rolled it out to shape the loaf. Don't stint on the raisins and don't roll the dough too thin or your swirl won't be very pronounced.

I'll definitely make this bread again. It wasn't overly rich or sweet and i'm sure it would make some wicked french toast. I prefer to eat it lightly toasted, with a cup of coffee.

My dad liked the bread too. It's not the best photo, but he insisted I document his enthusiasm.

The loaf won't last the day.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mesquite Honey Madeleines



I like repeating recipes, especially if my mom requests them. Repetition lets you see how small changes in ingredients, temperature, heat-distribution, or technique can affect the finished product.

David Lebovitz's post about "Humpy Madeleines" suggests buttering, flouring, and freezing the molds. I did this for one pan and only brushed the second with melted butter.

The cakes baked in the frozen, floured pan (seen in the photos) looked more finished than the others. They browned very evenly and slid right out of the pan. The other madeleines didn't brown as much and looked slightly greasy on the bottoms.

I think these taste best freshly baked, but fully cooled. The honey flavor is more pronounced and the edges have a bit of crunch. Feel free to use whatever honey you like. I've made them with clover, orange-blossom, wildflower, and now mesquite.

Chestnut-Honey Madeleines
adapted from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course
yield: 2 dozen madeleines

12 tbsp (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, plus additional softened butter for the molds
4 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup chestnut honey (or other strong or mild flavored honey.)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to let the butter cook until some of the white milk solids fall to the bottom of the skillet and turn a rich hazelnut brown, about 5 minutes. Strain the browned butter through a fine sieve into a small bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, both sugars, and honey until pale and foamy, 2-3 minutes.

3. Sift both flours, the baking powder, and salt over the egg mixture and use a rubber spatula to gently fold in. Fold in the browned butter. Cover the batter and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Liberally butter the madeleine molds. Spoon or pipe the batter evenly into the molds. Bake for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes then unmold the cakes and let them cool completely on the rack. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Almond Brown-Butter Cakes

Almond Brown-Butter Cakes

Almond Brown-Butter Cakes

My best friend from high school mentioned that she and her husband have never tried anything i've baked. They're driving back to San Francisco today so I made them a care package of oatmeal coconut raspberry bars, banana bread pudding, and these almond financiers from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course.

I didn't have almond flour; I just ground sliced blanched almonds in a food processor. I think the cakes would be better made with very fine almond flour though. It's a good recipe. The batter is easy to make and keeps in the fridge for three days.

Almond Brown-Butter Cakes
adapted from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course
yield: 15 small cakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup almond flour
1/3 cup cake flour
4 large egg whites (about 1/2 cup)
2-3 tbsp blanched sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to let the butter cook until some of the white milk solids fall to the bottom of the skillet and turn a rich hazelnut brown. Strain the browned butter through a fine sieve into a clean bowl.

2. Sift together the confectioners' sugar, almond flour, and cake flour. Place the sifted ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer witted with the whisk attachment. On the lowest speed, add the egg whites and mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to low and mix in the browned butter. Increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth. (The batter can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated until needed.)

3. Butter and flour 15 mini muffin tins. Spoon the batter into the tins and place 2-3 almond slices on top of each. Bake the cakes for about 15 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Allspice Crumb Muffins

Allspice Crumb Muffins

Allspice Crumb Muffins

My family appreciates streusel.

I've made a few different breakfast breads this week. The Cardamom Crumb Cake was particularly well recieved; my dad took a bite and said "Lisa, my mom used to make coffee cakes just like this- I liked to cut off the top and leave the bottom." The rest of the morning, I caught him stripping the streusel from small slices of coffee cake.

This morning, he yelled from the kitchen that I needed to make more ant traps because ants had eaten the top off one of my muffins. I walked into the kitchen and saw a muffin bottom sitting naked in its tin, streuselless and lonely. I told my dad I didn't think we had enough boric acid powder to deal with such a large pest. Comments aside, I do love it when my family likes my baked goods.

I baked half of these in aluminum muffin cups and half of them plain in greased tins. The muffins made with extra aluminum lining rose higher and browned very nicely. The muffins baked in unlined tins had crunchier tops and barely browned bottoms. They were more tender, but I really like color on my pastries. Heat distribution really affects muffins- so mind the weight and material of your pan.

Allspice Crumb Muffins
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From my Home to Yours

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground allspice
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular sized muffin tin or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

To make the streusel: Put the flour, brown sugar, and allspice in a small bowl and sift them through your fingers to blend. Add the bits of cold butter into the dry ingredients and toss to coat, then use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until you've got irregularly shaped crumbs. Set aside in the refrigerator. (You can make the crumbs up to 3 days ahead and keep them covered in the fridge.)

To make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, quickly but gently stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough- the batter will be lumpy and that's the way it should be. Stir in the lemon zest, if using. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle some streusel over each muffin, then use your fingertips to gently press the crumbs into the batter.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Cookies from Friends and Family

Assorted Christmas Cookies

Assorted Christmas Cookies
(Bottom photo, clockwise from top left: Lemon Bars, Gingersnaps, Pecan Sandies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Coconut-Pineapple Bars.)

I think homemade Christmas cookies are very special. Of all the food items my family recieves during the holidays, the homemade baked goods are the most treasured. My mom and I joke that it just isn't Christmas without Marge's fruitcake and Inge's cookies.

Every year our German friend Inge gives us a bag of unique cookies packed with nuts, spices, citron, chocolate, or fruit preserves. She makes then weeks in advance and meticulously weighs each ingredient. She decorates them with egg wash, nuts, or fruit, and often lines the bottoms with rice paper wafers.

My Auntie Jeannie also makes cookies for her friends and relatives. I particularly love her lemon bars and meltingly soft gingersnaps. This year she also brought me a box of truffles and Key Lime Pears from Recchiuti Confections in San Francisco. They're really delicate and beautiful.

There was so much good food this year: mango-kalamansi truffles from Jin Patisserie, fruit cakes, several varieties of Bahlsen cookies, two bottles of Dom Perignon, See's Chocolates, vanilla-nutmeg pastry cream with fruit, pears from Harry and David...the abundance was almost overwhelming.

I recieved some nice food-related gifts as well: copies of The Cake Book by Tish Boyle and The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman and an awesome 12-inch professional cake decorating turn table.

It was a pleasant Christmas, and I feel very fortunate.

Monday, December 24, 2007



My dad makes the best waffles. You will never convince me otherwise.

Pear Red Currant Bread Pudding

Pear Red Currant Bread Pudding

Pear Red Currant Bread Pudding

I rarely follow bread pudding recipes to the letter- I often substitute the suggested bread or fruit and I have no problem trading granulated sugar for brown sugar or cream for milk.

If you like a deeper bread pudding, you can use a deeper pan. No one is going to punish you if you throw in a handful or raisins, a pinch of nutmeg, or a touch of marmalade. If your pudding comes out too dry, you can drown it in caramel sauce or ice cream.

To choose the recipe that best suits your taste, consider these questions:

  • What is the ratio of bread to custard?
  • Does it use a water bath?
  • Is it covered during baking?
  • Is the whole custard made ahead of time, or are the milk and eggs added seperately?

    From experience, I know I like a substantial bread pudding (12-16 ounces of bread) that's very custardy. I find recipes cooked in a water bath are less likely to curdle. I like the top rather crispy too, which means the pudding needs some time uncovered in the oven.

    I loved this Dorie Greenspan recipe. The original uses caramelized apples and apple butter instead of fruit and jam, but I didn't feel like adding an extra cooking step. I used challah from Trader Joe's, huge pears from Harry and David. (which held their shape remarkably well,) and red currant preserves. Next time, i'd use a seedless preserves with bigger chunks of fruit. I dusted the pan with light brown sugar.

    It looked really beautiful. I rather wish i'd made it for the neighborhood Christmas Eve party tonight.

    Jam and Fruit Bread Pudding
    adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From my Home to Yours

    3 medium pears, peeled, cored and largely diced (or other soft fruit.)
    about 1 cup quality fruit preserves

    12 ounces egg bread, such as challah or brioche, or good quality white bread, preferably stale, sliced 1/2 inch thick.

    3 cups whole milk
    1 cup heavy cream
    3 large eggs
    5 large egg yolks
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract

    Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. Dust the inside with sugar and tap out the excess. Line a larger roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels.

    If your bread is not stale, spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone and bake at 350 degrees to "stale" it for 10 minutes.

    Spread one side of each slice of bread with jam, then cut each slice on the diagonal to get 4 triangles. Cover the bottom of the baking pan with half of the bread, arranging the triangles, jam side up, so that they overlap slightly. Don't worry about spaces between the slices. Spoon over the pears and finish "the sandwich" with the rest of the bread (jam side down.)

    Bring the milk and cream just to a boil, then take it off the heat. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Still whisking, slowly drizzle in about one quarter of the hot milk mixture- this will temper or warm the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining milk. Add the vanilla and whisk to blend. Rap the bowl against the counter to pop any bubbles that might have formed, then spoon off any foam that has risen to the top. Pour the custard over the bread and press the bread gently with the back of a spoon to help it absorb the liquid. Leave the pan on the counter, giving the bread the back of the spoon treatment every now and then, for about 30 minutes.

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

    Put the baking pan in the roasting pan, slide the setup into the oven and very carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake the pudding for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

    Bread pudding is best served the day it is made, but this pudding is still delicious served at room temperature the following day.
  • Saturday, December 22, 2007

    Chocolate Cherry Babka

    Chocolate Cherry Babka

    Chocolate Cherry Babka

    Have confidence in your baking this holiday season.

    I wanted to make a yeasted pastry and this combination of brioche dough, chocolate, and cherries sounded perfect.

    I didn't really know what I was doing. At first, the dough seemed too stiff. Adding more water made it unbelievably sticky, so I added extra flour. After a night in the fridge, the dough was hard, ugly, and more like thick batter.

    It rolled out very easily, but it stuck to the counter. Using a dough scraper I managed to roll it up and cut it, but the slices were loose and spilling filling everywhere. I tossed them into the pan and let them rise in a slightly warm, turned off oven. I realized i'd forgotten the cocoa powder.

    Despite my errors and questions of judgement, the bread turned out fantastically. I let my brother sample a warm, freshly baked piece and he said, "Lisa, you shouldn't be allowed to cook this well."

    This babka is best eaten shortly after it's baked. It'd be good to serve for a holiday breakfast, brunch, or occasion when you have lots of guests.

    You can reheat the whole loaf or thick, individual slices in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes. I placed slices on a baking sheet, covered them with foil, and flipped them once. They came out lightly toasted and moist with hot melted chocolate (and 100% better than they were while cold.)

    Chocolate Cranberry Babka
    adapted from Alice Medrich's A Year in Chocolate

    3 cups bread flour
    20 tbsp (2.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
    1 envelope (1 scant tbsp) active dry yeast
    1 tsp + 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
    5 eggs, cold
    1 1/2 tsp salt

    3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 tbsp instant coffee or espresso powder
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 cup dried cranberries or cherries

    8-10 cup tube pan, greased

    To make the babka, spread the flour in a wide baking pan. Freeze at least 30 minutes, or until needed.

    Using the paddle attachment of a heavy-duty mixer, beat the cold butter only until creamy, smooth, and free of lumps when pinched between your fingers. Scrape the butter into a mound on wax paper and refrigerate. Proceed with the recipe right away; a long delay will harden the butter.

    Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp of sugar in the warm water. Pour the dissolved yeast in the mixer bowl. Attach the dough hook. Add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, salt, and the flour, and mix until blended. Knead the dough on medium speed for 5 minutes. After the kneading period the dough will be very soft, sticky, and elastic. It will all be wrapped around the dough hook. Add the cold creamed butter in several pieces, pushing it into the dough, and beat with the hook until thoroughly incorporated. Stop several times to scrape the dough from the bowl and hook. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

    Mix the filling ingredients and cover.

    Up to 24 hours later, scrape the cold dough out onto a floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 18x12.5 inches. Scatter the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 inch margin on one long edge. Moisten the margin with water. Beginning at the long edge opposite the margin, roll the dough up like a jelly roll. Press firmly to seal the roll. With the seam facing down, cut 18 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Toss the slices gently into the pan, without particularly arranging them. If you lay them flat in the pan, they will not stick together properly. Adjust the slices to reach the same level in the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

    Preheat the oven to 350. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake until the top is deeply browned and the bottom of the pan sounds hollow when tapped or until an instant read thermometer registers 200 degrees when inserted in the center of the bread, 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    In Los Angeles for the Holidays.

    I'm in Los Angeles until January 5th.
    I made a little google map of places i'd like to try if there's time and I feel like driving.

    View Larger Map

    My initial motivation to try new places is wearing off quickly. The holidays are just too busy and nuts. Maybe i'd feel differently if every restaurant didn't require 45 minutes to an hour of driving each way.

    I did have a fantastic lunch at Joe's on Abbot Kinney. I ate a really fantastic pineapple dessert: a sort of baked sabayon with pineapple on a crispy bottom crust with caramel sauce and spiced ice cream...

    I'm enjoying a few new food products- particularly green tea yogurt from Trader Joe's and Danesi's Dancioc, a cocoa mix with some cornstarch that makes a thick hot chocolate that's not overly sweet. If you add enough powder, you'll end up with pudding. Mmmm.

    I'm not sure how much baking i'll be doing. We'll see. I have an Alice Medrich babka recipe bookmarked.

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Dorie Greenspan's Blondies



    These are blondies from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From my Home to Yours. Of all the baked goods I made last week, these were probably my least favorite. They were, however, the most popular and raved about dessert at the graduation party.

    The problem was butterscotch chips. I forgot that I hate them; I think they taste artificial and overly sweet. They are even more painfully orange than I remember.

    The only recipe i've ever liked with butterscotch chips is Sara Foster's Pumpkin Cookies with White Chocolate Chips, where the butterscotch chips are food-processed with the flour.

    If you like butterscotch chips, you'll love these blondies. They're very flavorful and packed with chocolate, coconut, and walnuts. In a way they reminded me of seven layer bars.

    It's important to let these blondies cool completely. Every time I make blondies, I cut into them too early and end up thinking they're underbaked and mushy. Once they cool, they firm up more and stay pleasantly chewy.

    I'm not posting the recipe; I'm back in LA and don't have a copy of the cookbook. Anyway, I much prefer Alice Medrich's blondie recipe.

    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    Cornmeal Currant Biscotti

    Cornmeal Currant Biscotti

    Cornmeal Currant Biscotti

    I don't make biscotti much. Mediterra makes fabulous hazelnut and chocolate biscotti that are more like sables/butter cookies than traditional biscotti. I need to try a few more recipes before I know how to get the texture i'm looking for. This Alice Medrich recipe was pretty simple. I'm not sure i'd use currants next time; I think a slightly sweeter fruit would have been better with the cornmeal.

    The graduation party went well last night. All of the baked goods were devoured, excepting one poundcake which i'm taking home for my parents. I have plenty of photos to share later: more gingersnaps, blondies, glazed lemon cake, and more!

    Cornmeal and Fruit Biscotti
    adapted from Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup cornmeal
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    1 cup sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
    1 cup raisins or dried cherries, cranberries, or blueberries, or chopped dried apricots

    Preheat oven to 350. Position a rack in the middle of the oven.

    Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Set aside.

    Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until blended. Add the eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest, and beat until light and fluffy.

    Add the flour mixture, stirring until all of the ingredients are moistened. Add the raisins, mixing with your hands if necessary. Shape the dough into a 12x2 inch log and place it on a cookie sheet.

    Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned and cracked on top. Cool for 5-10 minutes. Transfer the loaf carefully to a cutting board. Using a long serrated knife, cut the loaf on the diagonal into slices about 3/8 inch wide. Lay the slices, cut side down, on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are barely beginning to brown at the edges. Set the pan on a rack. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. May be stored, airtight, for at least 2 weeks.

    Saturday, December 15, 2007

    Rum Drenched Vanilla Cakes

    Vanilla Pound Cake w/ Rum Syrup

    Vanilla Poundcakes w/ Rum Syrup

    In addition to the three kinds of cookies I made last night, I made two kinds of cake. This is another great recipe from Baking from my Home to Yours. It yields elegant cakes that are pretty difficult to mess up.

    None of the recipes I made in the past two days require you to cream butter and sugar. I find the omission of this step makes baking seem much less intense.

    Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes
    adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my Home to Yours

    For the cakes:
    2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
    2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    pinch of salt
    2 1/3 cups sugar
    2 plump, moist vanilla beans, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved, (OR 1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract)
    6 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
    2/3 cup heavy cream
    2 1/2 tbsp dark rum
    1 stick + 7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

    For the syrup:
    1/3 cup water
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/4 cup dark rum

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 8.5x4.5x2.5 inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pans on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular sheets stacked one on top of the other.

    Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

    Put the sugar and the pulp from the vanilla beans, if using them, in a large bowl and, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of vanilla. (If you are using extract, add it later, after you've added the eggs.) Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the extract, if you're using it, then whisk in the cream, followed by the rum. Continuing with the whisk or switching to a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula.

    Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. (As soon as the cakes go into the oven, make the syrup.) After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color. If they are browning too much, cover them lightly with foil tents.

    Meanwhile, make the syrup. Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let cool.

    When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and, using a thin skewer, cake tester, or thin-bladed knife, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cake all over with the syrup, working slowly so the cakes sop it up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Rocky Road Bars.



    I thought I wasn't going to bake today, but I got bored and made three kinds of cookies.

    These were probably my favorite of the three. I love the buttery, toasted graham cracker crust and the overall flavor/texture. Best of all, these bars are very easy to make. They might not be extremely sophisticated, but they're simple, satisfying, and different from standard bar fare.

    I ran out of daylight, so i'll post the other cookies tomorrow.

    Rocky Road Bars
    adapted from Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies

    6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs (from 11 double graham crackers)
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 cup walnut pieces
    2 cups miniature or quartered regular marshmallows
    1 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
    8 inch square baking pan, lined with foil

    Preheat the oven to 350. Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven.

    Using a fork, mix the butter with the graham cracker cumbs and sugar until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly, pressing very firmly all over the bottom to form a crust. Scatter the nut pieces evenly over the crust.

    Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust begins to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and scatter marshmallows and chocolate chips evenly over the walnuts. Return the pan to the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the marshmallows are soft, barely golden, and merged with one another. Set on a rack to cool completely. Run a knife along the unlined sides of the pan. Lift the ends of the foil liner and transfer the bars to a cutting board. Cut into bars. May be stored, airtight, for 4-5 days.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Cardamom Crumb Cake

    Cardamom Crumb Cake

    Cardamom Crumb Cake

    Last year, my roommate made coffee cakes for her lab partners almost every day for two weeks. They seem to be a well-loved baked good; Starbucks always has several varieties that are mentioned in casual conversation more often than i'd like to hear. My mom says there was a decade not too long ago when every woman would know how to make a coffee cake- a staple of hospitality skills.

    I'm not sure why I don't make them more often, considering that i'll eat almost anything with streusel on top. This Dorie Greenspan recipe was particularly good. It's a nice change from your standard, buttery, fruit-filled coffee cake and it's very easy to make. The combination of cardamom, orange zest, coffee, and walnuts is heavenly. I love cardamom almost as much as I love streusel.

    It was difficult to get a good photo, but i'm relatively happy with the result. This winter weather really kills good natural lighting.

    (The Swedish Table by Helene Henderson also has some great recipes for cardamom lovers.)

    Cardamom Crumb Cake
    adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my Home to Yours

    For the crumbs:
    1/2 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 tbsp grated orange zest
    1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
    1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

    For the cake:
    2 cups all purpose flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
    1 tsp instant espresso powder
    2/3 cup sugar
    2 tbsp finely grated orange zest
    1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup whole milk
    1/2 cup strong coffee, cooled
    1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Butter an 8 inch square pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

    To make the crumbs, put all the ingredients except the butter in a bowl and toss them together with a spatula just to blend. Add the butter and, using your fingers or the spatula, mix everything together until you have crumbs of different sizes. It's nice to have a few big pieces, so don't overdo it. Set the crumbs aside. They can be made up to 3 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

    To make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and espresso powder in a large bowl. Turn the dry ingredients out onto a sheet of wax paper and put the sugar and zest in the bowl. Rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong., then return the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk to blend.

    Put the remaining ingredients in another bowl and whisk them to blend. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir, don't beat, to mix. Stir only until you've got an evenly moistened batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and top with a thick, even layer of the crumbs. Pat the crumbs ever so gently into the batter.

    Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake has risen (it will crown,) the crumbs are golden and a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Transfer to a rack to cool in the pan before serving warm or at room temperature.

    Sunday, December 9, 2007

    Banana Cake with Espresso Caramel Frosting

    Banana Cake w/ Espresso Caramel Frosting

    This is what the cake from the failure post was supposed to look like.

    This cake is from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book. I don't actually own a copy, so I cannot post the recipe right now. That said, it's one of the more interesting layer cakes i've made and I highly recommend it.

    I'm not sure how much i'll be baking this week, as I leave for California a week from today. If you would like to see me bake something in particular, leave a comment. If you have hungry coworkers/classmates in the Pittsburgh area, i'd love an occasion to bake for. No promises though. Also:

  • I am going to Philadelphia in January and would love suggestions for bakeries/eateries to visit.

  • I'm looking for advice on finding food donations for a church event.

  • I need suggestions for a good, non-genoise chocolate cake recipe for a wedding cake. All the recipes I have are too moist and won't provide enough structural support.

    That is all.
  • Friday, December 7, 2007

    Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

    Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

    Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

    This is the gingerbread i've been waiting for. The fresh ginger adds great flavor and heat, and the chunks of chopped chocolate melt in your mouth. I love the subtle blend of spices and the smooth consistency of the frosting.

    Do sift the confectioners' sugar, or your icing will be rather lumpy.

    I didn't mind that the edges were slightly over-baked. I trimmed them off and ate them immediately. This gingerbread is a keeper. I almost don't want to take it to the holiday party I made it for...

    Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread
    adapted from Baking from my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

    For the cake:
    2 tbsp finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
    1 tbsp sugar
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    2 tsp ground ginger
    3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp ground cloves
    1 stick + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
    3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    3 large eggs
    1/2 cup molasses
    6 oz bittersweet chocolate, 2 oz melted and cooled, 4 oz finely chopped
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 tbsp finely chopped stem ginger in syrup (optional)

    For the icing:
    3 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    1 tbsp strong coffee
    3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
    3 tbsp confectioners sugar

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9in square baking pan and put it on a baking sheet.

    Put the fresh ginger and sugar in a small bowl, stir and set aside.

    Whisk the flour, baking soda, and spices together.

    Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled at this stage. Pour in the molasses and beat until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate, along with the sugared ginger. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in two (begin and end with dry ingredients,) mixing the batter only as much as needed to blend the ingredients. Fold in the chopped chocolate and the ginger in syrup (if using.) Pour the batter into the pan.

    Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Don't be concerned if the cake has domed and cracked- it will settle down as it cools. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then unmold the cake. Turn right side up to cool to room temperature before icing the cake. The edges might be quite brown, but don't fret- you can trim them after you ice the cake.

    To make the icing: Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, put the chocolate and coffee in the bowl, and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl and, using a small whisk, stir in the butter 1 tbsp at a time. Sift the confectioners sugar over the chocolate and stir in. Transfer the bowl to a counter and let the icing sit for about 10 minutes.

    Put the gingerbread, still on the rack, on a pice of wax paper or foil. Pour the icing onto the center of the cake and use a long metal spatula to spread the icing evenly over the top. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes. If the edges of the cake are overbaked, now's the time to trim them. Then cut the gingerbread into 9 even pieces.

    Wednesday, December 5, 2007

    Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Chocolate Pecan Cookies and Truffles

    Chocolate Pecan Cookies

    I took this tray of cookies and truffles to class. The treats were well received; only a few truffles were left afterwards.

    These cookies were best right out of the oven, when the melted chocolate was hot enough to burn my tongue. It's a good recipe. My cooled cookies were very crunchy, so err on the short end of the baking time if you'd like them chewier. I used chopped Guittard chocolate and pecans instead of walnuts.

    I like cookies. There's not much else I can say.

    Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
    adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman

    16 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
    1 egg, at room temperature
    1 egg white, at room temperature
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 3/4 cups flour
    8 oz semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate with 61-66% cocoa solids)
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups (6oz) chopped walnuts (optional.)

    Preheat the oven to 350. Spray cookie sheets with oil or line with parchment.

    Place the butter in the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minutes. Add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes fluffy and lighter in color, 6-8 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and egg white and continue to beat until they are fully incorporated and the batter looks smooth and glossy, 1-2 minutes.

    In a dry bowl, whisk together the baking soda, flour, and salt. Add the dry mixture, all at once, to the butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold together for a few turns. With the mixer on slow speed, mix the dough until thoroughly combined, 1 minute. Add the chocolate, vanilla, and walnuts if you are using them. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another 30 seconds. The batter can be made up to this point and refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 4 days.

    Using 2 teaspoons, scoop the dough into mounds arranged 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake until they are a light golden brown with darker coloring at the edges, 12-15 minutes. For a crunchier, darker, more caramelized cookie, bake a little longer. For even browning, rotate the cookie sheets during baking.

    These cookies will keep, sealed in a container, for 3 days.

    Tuesday, December 4, 2007

    Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, and Espresso Truffles

    Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, and Espresso Truffles

    Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, and Espresso Truffles

    I'm picky about truffles; they often suffer from bad chocolate, boring or horribly wrong flavors, or an overly-dense texture. Luckily I loved this recipe from The Sweet Life. The flavor of coffee and cinnamon is sophisticated and the walnuts add a nice crunch. The ganache isn't so dense that it's hard to bite into.

    I used a 63% Guittard chocolate. If you're in Pittsburgh, you can find good baking chocolate in the back of Mon Aimee Chocolat for 4-5 dollars per pound. This is a steal, considering that Whole Foods charges 9-13 dollars a pound for Callebaut and El Rey coverture.

    I will probably take these to class, along with some chocolate chip-pecan cookies. I'd consider making them again for holiday parties too.

    Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, and Espresso Truffles w/ Walnuts
    adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman

    1/2 cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream
    1/2 tsp ground fresh cinnamon
    8 oz bittersweet chocolate (61-66%)
    2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced into 6 pieces
    1 tbsp coarsely ground fresh dark coffee

    3oz bittersweet chocolate
    1 1/4 cups ground walnuts

    In a small saucepan, combine the cream and cinnamon and cook over medium heat to almost boiling. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the cream steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a double boiler, melt the chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula as it melts. Do not overheat- it should never be so hot that you cannot dip a finger in it.

    Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and slowly whisk in the infused cream. Continue to whisk until the mixture (now a ganache) is smooth, creamy, and holds the lines of a whisk. Slowly whisk in the butter and ground coffee until incorporated. Scrape the ganache into a small bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.

    Fill a glass with very hot tap water. Dip a small mellon baller into the hot water and tap on the counter to remove any excess water. Plunge the mellon baller into the chilled ganache far enough down so that it sits completely in the ganache. Rotate the mellon baller 360 degrees and remove from the ganache. Tap the melon baller to release the ball onto a plate or tray. Repeat this process until all the ganache has been scooped into balls. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator and chill.

    In the bowl of a double boiler, melt the bittersweet chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula as it melts. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

    Set up an assembly line on your counter. From left to right place the chilled ganache balls, the bowl of melted chocolate, a tray with the ground walnuts, and a container to hold the finished truffles.

    With your left hand, pick up 2 ganache balls and dip them quickly into the melted chocolate and roll them around until coated. Drop the balls with your left hand into the walnuts. With your right hand roll the balls until completely enrobed. Pick up the finished candies with your right hand and place them in the container.

    These truffles will keep, in a sealed container and refrigerated, for 2 weeks.

    Saturday, December 1, 2007

    Half a Baguette Bread Pudding

    Bread Pudding

    Bread Pudding

    I'm in the midst of finals, so things have been busy. I bought a Christmas tree, saw The Golden Compass (vastly dissapointing with a few good moments,) wrote papers, and had a nice cup of coffee with April from Cookworm.

    After a short baking hiatus (anything longer than a few days seems to be a hiatus for me,) I made a bread pudding. This is another recipe from Fresh Every Day, one of my favorite cookbooks.

    There are many different versions of bread pudding. Some are huge, rich, and seem like one big mass rather than individual bread cubes held together. Some require you to mash or cook the bread while others have conservative directions.

    This pudding is somewhere in the middle. It's a little on the thin side, but it keeps well for later reheating. The apple pieces are a nice, tart contrast and the caramel sauce is fantastic. I managed to cook the caramel to my favorite, just under burned point. Next time I might use salted butter. The sauce makes up for the lack of richness in the recipe itself and adds a nice textural contrast. Ice cream or poured cream would also be nice accompaniments.

    I will probably keep experimenting with recipes. I'm also planning to make Dorie Greenspan's gingerbread cake and some truffles from The Sweet Life.

    Half a Baguette Bread Pudding w/ Caramel Pecan Sauce
    Adapted from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster

    4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
    6 cups 1.5inch cubes of baguette, or country italian bread, or any day-old bread, biscuits or cake
    2 cups milk
    2 large eggs
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    2 tbsp unfiltered apple juice or cider
    1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
    1 granny smith or other good baking apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
    2 tbsp dark rum

    1. Preheat the oven to 350. Brush a 9x13in glass baking dish with 1 tbsp of melted butter and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the dish.

    2. Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and pour the milk over the bread. Let the bread sit until it is mushy and has absorbed almost all the milk, 4-5 minutes.

    3. Whisk the eggs, sugar, apple juice, vanilla, and the remaining melted butter together in a seperate medium bowl. Pour this over the bread, add the apples, and stir gently until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

    4. Pour the bread into the prepared baking dish using a rubber spatula or the edge of your hand to get all the liquid out of the bowl. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the bread pudding for 50 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue baking 15-20 mins until the bread pudding is fluffy with a golden brown crust. While the pudding is baking, make the caramel pecan sauce.

    5. Remove the baking dish from the oven, pour the rum over the top, and let it cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving. You can pour the caramel pecan sauce over the pudding while it's in the pan or over individual servings, but make sure to pour the sauce over the pudding while both the sauce and pudding are warm.

    Caramel Pecan Sauce
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup water
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1 tbsp unsalted butter
    1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

    1. Stir the sugar and water together in a small saucepan placed over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil without stirring. If sugar crystals appear on the sides of the pan, brush the sides down with a wet pastry brush. Boil the syrup for 4-5 minutes until it turns amber in color. Swirl the pan if it starts to color only in one area.

    2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream by pouring it down the side of the pan, stirring constantly. If the caramel hardens when you pour in the cream, put the saucepan back on low heat to soften. Add the butter and stir until all is incorporated. Stir in the pecans. Keep warm until ready to use or reheat over low heat.